Weekend Wrap-Up

Box Office Lacks Focus; Low Point for 2015

By John Hamann

March 1, 2015

Thank goodness February is over, am I right?

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It should have been an easy win this weekend as we have a Will Smith movie in Focus and a PG-13 horror flick in The Lazarus Effect. However, teen horror and Will Smith ain’t what they used to be, and we are left with a softer than expected overall weekend box office.

A few years ago, a Will Smith movie and a horror film with a PG-13 rating would have combined for an $80 million opening weekend double-punch, but that was then. Now, with only two Will Smith films released in the last eight years (and one of them being After Earth) the Fresh Prince brand is damaged, and it looks like it will take some time to recover. Focus, his follow-up to After Earth, is a strange choice for a redemption project. A complicated, romantic, poorly-marketed grifter movie doesn’t immediately draw people to theaters, after all. Focus did draw this weekend – somewhat – but was well off Smith's $35 million opening weekend average. The other opener this weekend is The Lazarus Effect, a long dormant horror-thriller starring Olivia Wilde and Mark Duplass. This one should have stayed dead, but as a $3.5 million pickup for Relativity, even a small opening should make this one profitable.

Our number one film of the weekend is Focus, the new film from Will Smith and Warner Bros. Some call it a comedy, some a thriller, and some a romance. Focus's genre was so broad that no one could figure out what it was trying to be. The marketing seemed only to tell us that the movie starred beautiful people, and it was about conning people out of… something (Their money? Their clothes? Our money? I don’t know).


Moviegoers gave Focus the collective shrug, as it had previews on Thursday that came in at less than a million, followed by a combined Thursday/Friday of $6.5 million. Smith’s 2006 drama, The Pursuit of Happyness, had a first day take of $9 million, so Focus wasn’t reaching that amount. It was only barely able to beat the $5.2 million first day of Seven Pounds, Smith’s poorly-reviewed 2008 drama. It is never good news when your unhappy films beat your party time, con man film.

Over the rest of the weekend, Focus was able to drum up only $19.1 million, a couple million off the low side of the pre-weekend estimate of $21 million. Out to a big venue count of 3,323 screens, Focus could only muster an average of $5,748, leaving theater owners without a big draw for what feels like eons. Seven Pounds, at $14.9 million, was Will Smith’s lowest opening since Ali in 2001, which debuted to $14.7 million but opened on Christmas Day, a Tuesday, and had a six-day gross (Tuesday to Sunday) of $34.7 million. This opening resembles more of the start of Will Smith’s career (Enemy of the State’s $20 million opening, Bad Boys $15 million opening), than what should be the middle piece of the actor’s career.

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